Verse 26. My flesh and my heart faileth. They had failed him already, and he had almost fallen; they would fail him in the hour of death, and, if he relied upon them, they would fail him at once.
But God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. His God would not fail him, either as protection or a joy. His heart would be kept up by divine love, and filled eternally with divine glory. After having been driven far out to sea, Asaph casts anchor in the old port. We shall do well to follow his example. There is nothing desirable save God; let us, then, desire only him. All other things must pass away; let our hearts abide in him, who alone abideth for ever.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 25-26. See Psalms on "Psalms 73:25" for further information.
Verse 26. My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. In which words we may take notice of five things.
Thus you may improve the text by way of observation; but there are two principal doctrines to be insisted on. First, that God is the rock of a saint's heart, his strength, and his portion for ever. Secondly, that divine influence and relief passeth from God to his people when they stand in most need thereof.
First. God is the rock of a saint's heart, strength, and portion for ever. Here are two members or branches in this doctrine.
Verse 26. Oh, strange logic! Grace hath learned to deduce strong conclusions out of weak premises, and happy out of sad. If the major be, My flesh and my heart faileth; and the minor, "There is no blossom in the fig tree, nor fruit in the vine," etc.; yet his conclusion is firm and undeniable: The Lord is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever; or, Yet will I rejoice in the God of my salvation. And if there be more in the conclusion than in the premises, it is the better; God comes even in the conclusion. John Sheffield, in "The Rising Sun." 1654.
Verse 26. My flesh and my heart faileth. They who take the expression in a bad sense, take it to be a confession of his former sin, and to have relation to the combat mentioned in the beginning of the Psalm, between the flesh and the spirit; as if he had said, I was so surfeited with self conceitedness that I presumed to arraign divine actions at the bar of human reason, and to judge the stick under water crooked by the eye of my sense, when, indeed, it was straight: but now I see that flesh is no fit judge in matters of faith; that neither my flesh nor heart can determine rightly of God's dispensations, nor hold out uprightly under Satan's temptations; for if God had not supported me my flesh had utterly supplanted me: My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart. Flesh is sometimes taken for corrupt nature. Galatians 5:13 . First, because it is propagated by the flesh ( John 3:6 ); secondly, because it is executed by the flesh ( Romans 7:25 ); thirdly, because corruption is nourished, strengthened, and increased by the flesh. 1 John 2:16 . They who take the words in a good sense, do not make them look back so far as the beginning of the Psalm, but only to the neighbour verse. George Swinnock.
Verse 26. God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. The Hebrew carrieth it, but God is the rock of my heart, i.e., a sure, strong, and immovable foundation to build upon. Though the winds may blow, and the waves beat, when the storm of death cometh, yet I need not fear that the house of my heart will fall, for it is built on a sure foundation: God is the rock of my heart. The strongest child that God hath is not able to stand alone; like the hop or ivy, he must have somewhat to support him, or he is presently on the ground. Of all seasons, the Christian hath most need of succour at his dying hour; then he must take his leave of all his comforts on earth, and then he shall be sure of the sharpest conflicts from hell, and therefore, it is impossible he should hold out without extraordinary help from heaven. But the psalmist had armour of proof ready, wherewith to encounter his last enemy. As weak and fearful a child as he was, he durst venture a walk in the dark entry of death, having his Father by the hand: "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me," Psalm 23. Though at the troubles of my life, and my trial at death, my heart is ready to fail me, yet I have a strong cordial which will cheer me in my saddest condition: God is the strength of my heart.
And my portion. It is a metaphor taken from the ancient custom among the Jews, of dividing inheritances, whereby every one had his allotted portion; as if he had said, God is not only my rock to defend me from those tempests which assault me, and, thereby, my freedom from evil; but he is also my portion, to supply my necessities, and to give me the fruition of all good. Others, indeed, have their parts on this side the land of promise, but the author of all portions is the matter of my portion. My portion doth not lie in the rubbish and lumber, as theirs doth whose portion is in this life, be they never so large; but my portion containeth him whom the heavens, and heaven of heavens, can never contain. God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever; not for a year, or an age, or a million of ages, but for eternity. Though others' portions, like roses, the fuller they blow, the sooner they shed; they are worsted often by their pride, and wasted through their prodigality, so that at last they come to want -- and surely death always rends their persons and portions asunder; yet my portion will be ever full, without diminution. Without alteration, this God will be my God for ever and ever, my guide and aid unto death; nay, death, which dissolves so many bonds, and unties such close knots, shall never part me and my portion, but give me a perfect and everlasting possession of it. George Swinnock.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 26. "The Fading of the Flesh," Swinnock's Treatise. (Nichol's Puritan Series.)
Verse 26. Where we fail and where we cannot fail.